Sowing seeds

The early church had multiple problems, many of which Paul and other New Testament writers refer to. Any reasonable person would have taken these problems as a sign that the faith they were pushing really didn’t work; didn’t produce new creations powered by a holy spirit. Some, including a number of the very earliest followers (Matthew 28.17), were leaving the church, disappointed and disillusioned. How were leading figures in the cult to explain this? Having supposedly encountered the supernatural Jesus these people were now having doubts that he was real and were turning their backs on him. This shouldn’t have been happening!

The writer of 1 John accounts for the departure of those who had come to their senses by suggesting they were never really true believers:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)

It’s significant that the writer of this letter doesn’t allude to Jesus’ parable about the sower of the seeds from Matthew 13. Not one of the letter writers in the New Testament who address the problem of defections does so. This can only be because none of them knew of it when they were writing decades after it was supposedly told. The reason they don’t mention it is because it had yet to be written.

The parable of the sower is Matthew’s attempt to have Jesus address the problem of those who fell away from the cult. Matthew’s explanation is it’s because the good news – the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom on Earth – only takes root in the spiritually astute. Others, who might initially accept the gospel, are like stony ground on which birds gobble up the seed. They are those who allow the cares of this world – metaphorical weeds – to choke the message before it can flourish.

It’s a very colourful explanation designed to reassure those persisting in the faith that they are the favoured, while those who have defected have fallen prey to the shallow soil, birds and weeds. It’s neat and it gives reassurance and encouragement to remaining cultists.

Jesus could not possibly have known what was to become of his ‘church’ and the (non)arrival of God’s Kingdom – his good news – following his death. The parable was created for him, or more specifically, as Matthew makes abundantly clear in 13:11-12, for devotees of the early cult decades later. What it emphatically is not, is a story originally delivered by Jesus.


32 thoughts on “Sowing seeds

  1. It is not like there had been no defections. The OT is full of people who defected from the faith of the Jews and went off to follow other gods, or do their own thing; it was pretty much the whole message of the prophets. Hey, even I might have been able to anticipate that. Jesus could have expected some of his disciples might do so. He knew many were just curious. You don’t have to create a whole new scenario that places passages such as the parable of the sower and the seed in the distant future. It is the history of faith from the beginning of faith. Go back as far as Cain if you like.

    But even if the parable were in response to defections, it is pretty accurate about the reasons for either not receiving the word or not persisting in faith. Yes, there may be other reasons. One reason may well be that a person just cannot believe what they are being told, though there would have been far fewer of those in 1st century Judea than today. (I think there are few today, actually, by far the larger number just get busy and distracted. It does take persistence, you know. )

    The few btw who seemed to have the problem of not believing what they heard included John the Baptist and those in Matthew 28:17. But we are not told that their doubt resulted in defection. Doubt was simply satisfied by what they saw and heard, and they moved on faith.

    Doubt is not bad, nor does it mean the end of faith. Every one of us doubts at times.

    The above mentioned parable btw was not intended to reassure. It was intended to encourage persistence in hearing. That is why Jesus ended it with “He who has ears, let him hear.”

    The same might be said today.


    • When all is said and done what is the real deal with Christianity?
      In a nut shell one is obliged to acknowledge one is a sinner and therefore there are two choices; acknowledge the bible character Jesus of Nazareth is the only path to salvation or be doomed to Hell ( depending on whatever version of church doctrine you subscribe to).

      Is there really anything else?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes. There is a lot more.

        What you are describing is what Christians have long described as “fire insurance.” That is actually a pretty poor understanding of what salvation is all about. Salvation actually is health and wholeness on every level of our being.

        It is becoming part of God’s program for life and humanity for setting right the universe starting with us, a program called the kingdom of God. It is the anticipation of being all we were created to be starting here and now. And it does start at the point where we acknowledge that we are our own worst enemy. (Sin means to miss the mark, and that is what we have done in basically every level of our lives.)

        So, God begins with sin. And deals with it by forgiving and enabling us to start over doing life as we were created to do it, loving others as we love ourselves. But that is only the beginning. God remakes us into the image of Jesus (a biblical way of saying that in character we are destined to be like Jesus.) and thus sets right human society.

        At the heart of this metamorphosis, is a reestablished relationship with God. This we need more than anything. We were made for this. As St. Augustine said, our hearts will not be at rest until they rest in Him.


      • Therefore it seems like commonsense to ensure the veracity of your claim that your god Yahweh exists before making any pronouncements either way.
        Do you have any evidence?

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’m quite at peace without any god, thanks. I wouldn’t want to be anything like the intolerant, self-important and frequently wrong Jesus.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Intolerant toward whom? Toward those who were using the law to line their own pockets and rise up in the ranks of the religious elite at the expense of those they were supposedly leading in righteousness. That’s puzzling. It seems like you have expressed some intolerance towards religious leaders as well.

        Self-important? You’ll have to explain.

        Frequently wrong? About what?


      • Don:
        “God remakes us into the image of Jesus (a biblical way of saying that in character we are destined to be like Jesus.) and thus sets right human society.”

        Setting right human society by enslaving other human beings and killing homosexuals…sounds like a plan to me!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Those who are acting in the character of Jesus do not do those things because Jesus did not do them. (I am scratching my head. Who did Jesus kill for any reason?)

        Your beef is with those who claim to be followers of Jesus but who are hypocrites. Good. I will join you. Jesus would join you.

        ” For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” John 3:17

        Jesus offers people a way out of the trap that sin has them in, whether that is the current distorted thinking of our culture that deifies harmful behavior or the disastrous obsession with self. Jesus offers a life that frees us from those things and a change of heart that makes that possible. That certainly includes slavery as we knew it in the past and as we know it today in America and England. It includes the failure to care for those who suffer. It includes addictions that destroy us. Jesus frees us from these things. How is that bad?


      • Also interesting that after spending so much time with the son of god and his disciples, people still didn’t believe…they had doubts.
        Maybe because people realized that all this “spiritual” talk is really BS.
        And that for all the xtians talk of “being renewed” and “walking in the spirit”, their lives show absolutely no difference between us and them.
        People are realizing the emperor has no clothes.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Maybe because like you, having a person whom you saw crucified and dead standing before you is pretty shocking to your expectations. It would be to mine BTW. So, what is really unexpected is that they could accept it.


      • Don:
        “At the heart of this metamorphosis, is a reestablished relationship with God.”

        Meaning our government also, correct?
        So will we do away with our constitution? Remember, the 1st amendment says no established religion, and the first commandment says no other gods before me!
        What do we do?


      • Don:
        (I am scratching my head. Who did Jesus kill for any reason?)

        For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord.

        He killed the firstborn because he was mad.


      • This was God who killed then first-born of Egypt.

        It is important to distinguish between the character of Jesus during the time of his earthly life and the character of God. That is a distinction Neil fails to note as well.

        Jesus said he did not come to judge but to save the world. He set aside his right to judge … for the time of his earthly life. Paul says he emptied himself.

        God, however, cannot do so. God is God. He is holy, loving, just, kind. He hates sin and must judge it. If he does not, if he overlooks sin, the equilibrium of the world will be upset and human society destroyed.

        God can defer judgement. He can forgive sin by taking the judgement of sin upon himself, but he cannot ignore it. That is disaster.

        That should be quite clear even in our human society. Ignoring crime does not make things better. It does not result in crime going away. It allows crime to proliferate to the place that it destroys society. But that is what Neil evidently wants God to do – if there is a God. If Neil ever got what he wished for, he would wish differently.

        So, the death of the first-born was not out of personal anger but out of anger that Pharaoh and Egypt had allowed crime to go unchecked. Since Pharaoh did not check the crime, God had to. This is not some strange God-only thing. It is a principle that we ignore at our own hurt..

        If Hitler had been allowed to continue his crimes, such crimes would have destroyed the world. Doesn’t that seem obvious?

        So Jesus came to offer a way out of the crime destruction cycle. He offered forgiveness and change of heart. AND he warned of the consequences.

        There are a lot of Christians who are grateful that he did. They may not have paid attention to the dangers of sin if he had not warned them.


      • You want me to address the discrepancies between the Jesus of the gospels, his ‘heavenly Father’ and the genocidal, maniacal God who rages his way through the Old and New Testaments? I can certainly do that. I’d be happy to show the incongruities which you gloss over with this nonsensical theobabble.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the incongruities lie in your conception of God. No one who reads the Bible can miss the idea that God is just and the judge of all. No one can miss the fact that God did and does judge both nations and people and often that judgement is death. But no one can miss that God is also a God of mercy for all who turn to him and that he provides salvation for all who seek it from him.

        Those are not incongruent in a God who is good. In fact, they are essential. They are essential for a universe in moral equilibrium where God has given moral beings such as you and me moral freedom of will. That is not a difficult idea, Neil.


      • No-one is saying it’s a difficult idea, Don. We’re saying it’s baloney. You haven’t supplied any evidence for this erratic god of yours, nor have you demonstrated he is responsible for the voices you and others think you hear in your heads.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t find God erratic at all. God, his laws that govern life even the whole story of the universe are like a plot in story plot that has perfect unity and coherence. If you do not see that, it is because you are not looking at the whole thing.

        I don’t need to provide evidence for the voice of God -m which is not in my head but in my spirit. I am not using it as an argument. I am simply bearing witness to my experience and the experience of others.


      • Don sez: No one who reads the Bible can miss the idea that God is just and the judge of all.

        Sure. This is how the authors want us to view God. But this is an ancient tribal people with an ancient tribal god. Their views of what is “just” was very different from ours. To them, a “just god” would certainly genocide all the non-Hebrews. Non-Hebrews are not God’s chosen people, after all.

        And the “judge of all” thing is a very late development. For most of the Hebrew Bible, God is the judge of Israel (the tribes). Only very late (Persian or Hasmonean period) does God get promoted from the God of Israel to the God of the whole world. God then becomes the judge of the whole world but everyone will still be judged according to the Law – i.e. observance of the Torah.

        All that said, the ethics of the Bible are still very primitive compared to our own. You say, “No one who reads the Bible can miss the idea that God is just…” I disagree. No one today who is not indoctrinated into an Abrahamic faith, can read this book honestly and miss the fact that the god portrayed is evil. He is the bad guy in the book. He is a moral monster.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Don sez: It is important to distinguish between the character of Jesus during the time of his earthly life and the character of God.


      • Don:
        (I am scratching my head. Who did Jesus kill for any reason?)

        He instituted the death penalty for homosexual behavior…if I, (a male), have sex with another man, he, (and by extension you), would sentence me to death!


      • Some of the laws given through Moses were intended as national laws for the Jews. Other nations were not governed by those laws.

        How do you tell? If a law is not reiterated in the New Testament it is not a universal law governing all. The only laws that are repeated in the New Testament are “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.” As Paul and James both said, if you keep those laws every other universal moral law is satisfied.

        The moral law, however, was not done away with, as Jesus said; they are subsumed under the royal law of loving God and loving your neighbor. You don’t love your neighbor if you kill him, for example.

        National and ceremonial laws are not universal. They applied to Israel.

        Some national laws were also moral laws. Homosexual behavior is one of those. The Sabbath is another. It was a national law for the Jews and was punishable in the nation but not by any other nation – unless the nation makes it a law. That does not mean it is okay. Even if there is no religious, criminal, or civil law, It still is not obedient to God and his design for living, but there is no God -instituted criminal or civil penalty for it in human society.


      • Don sez: Some of the laws given through Moses were intended as national laws for the Jews. Other nations were not governed by those laws.

        Don, the consensus today among historians and archeologists is that Moses never existed. He is a myth. The exodus never happened. It is a myth.

        In order to be taken seriously, you need to drop appeals to mythical people.

        Also, the scholarly consensus on the laws is that they only applied to the Hebrews. None of the Old Testament laws applied to any other people.


  2. goyo: He killed the firstborn because he was mad.

    That, and. . .

    Earlier in the story Pharaoh was ready to let the Hebrews go. BUT God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so He could finish His list of plagues.

    So. . . God killed the firstborn because he was mad AND he was showing off.

    Homicidal Maniac ✅
    Narcissist ✅

    Liked by 1 person

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